Spotlight on Homewood

Open Streets Homewood; google image
Open Streets Homewood;
google image
For those who have never lived in or experienced Homewood on a community level you probably only know what you see on the news. Often the negative is highlighted and the true heart of the community is overlooked. Homewood is iconic and deeply rooted in the history of Pittsburgh. (There are several posts about the local history of Homewood. Please read them if you haven’t already.) While the neighborhood has changed over the years and had its challenges, when I’m riding through it still feels like home. Generations of my family have thrived in Homewood and it will always be apart of me. One of the most important fixtures in my life and in the community of Homewood is Homewood AME Zion Church. It’s where I did everything fun as a child. It is the place I met all my life long friends. And this place molded an entire community. Often churches in the Black community are a cornerstone of everyday life. From fighting for civil rights, to an afternoon luncheon, to donating clothes and assistance for local families in need. You do not have to be a member or even attend church on a regular basis to benefit from the generosity and influence of Homewood AME Zion.
Homewood AME Zion Church 1971
Eliza Smith Brown writes on behalf of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission:
Organized in 1871 as the first Black church in Homewood, the Homewood AME Zion is an early example of cohesiveness and sophistication of Blacks in Homewood at a time when Black had small numbers and few economic resources. … It provided the early Black community of Homewood  with a sense of identity, united their strengths, and continues today at its present location.
Rev. George A Fitch of Homewood AME Zion
Picture by Teenie Harris

Through three locations and under numerous leaderships Homewood AME has maintained its place in community life.  Recently the church has taken a new Pastor who has a vision of outreach and inclusion for the community.  He and his wife are eager to give back and be a pat of Homewood’s lasting legacy starting with taking over the reigns of the church’s annual Homewood community day.  I spoke with them about their new arrival and the upcoming activities.

Welcome to Pittsburgh. Please Introduce yourselves?
-We are Pastor Jonathon and Lady Darlene Counts. We previously served at SG Spottswood AME Zion Church in Landover ,Maryland. Pastor Counts is originally from New Jersey and Lady Counts is from Maryland. So Pittsburgh is a new experience for both of us and we are excited about it! 
Pastor and Lady Counts
What has been your favorite Pittsburgh experience so far?
– Our favorite Pittsburgh experience has been the FOOD! We are enjoying all of the various restaurants but we also loved going on Mt. Washington and seeing the whole city. It was a beautiful sight to see! We also enjoy the cultural aspect of Pittsburgh. There is so much diversity and we can’t wait to dive into it and live our best lives.
Homewood has played a historic role in Pittsburgh history. What have been your first impressions of the neighborhood?
– Homewood is a promising neighborhood and it is gentrifying. Churches like Bible Center and other organizations  are working very hard for the betterment of the Homewood community which is evident. However, we also have seen high percentages of addiction, poverty and homes that are dilapidating. We also notice some of the issues with the children in the community and the schools in the Homewood community. But in spite of it all there is much promise and our church is apart of that promise moving forward.
Members of family have been members of Homewood AME Zion since it was founded. In the past this church has been a pillar of community support. How do you see yourselves continuing this tradition?
– The culture of Homewood AME Zion Church is changing and we are becoming the Home of Love, Liberation, and Life to re-engage with the Homewood Community. Throughout the years the drive for community engagement has dwindled but we are committed to restoring that drive to be the pillar of community support once again. As we are restoring our engagement with the community, we are meeting with community leaders and establishing partnerships within the Homewood community as we assess what the needs are and how our church can jump in. A long term goal of ours is to become a 501c3 so that we can do more for our community and establish programs.
Lady Darlene Counts and My Family


Rev George Fitch with children participating in a Sunday School program
Homewood AME Zion  Community Day was Aug 10.  What did the people of Homewood and visitors get to enjoy?
– Community Day at our Church was filled with Food, Fun, and Fellowship. There was fun for all ages. There was also resources made available and there was a spiritual component. We pray that we were able to connect with persons and will have a continuous relationship with the visitors who came. We want to follow up more effectively this year. It was a wonderful day!
Firemen spraying hoses with my children at community day


Fun games and prizes for kids
I personally have volunteered at community day and can tell you it is an afternoon well spent.  Visitors can always expect to find free food, games and music.  This year as in the past, bookbags given away for students and there were tables with gently used clothes for the family. Local police, fire and other civil servants were all on hand to meet with community members and discuss their role in community development. We also invited community organizations to come share their vision for Homewood and provide services on site or provide information on what they do.  Please keep an eye out for many more community focused activities to be on the horizon.
Clothing give-away at community day


Providing a community meal
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Lanae Lumsden
Lanae is lifelong Pittsburgh resident with a brief stint in Ohio for her high school and middle school years. Most of her life she lived in Wilkinsburg but recently became a resident of the north boroughs. Lanae holds an associates’ degree in fashion merchandising and a bachelor’s degree in business management. After college, Lanae, entered the insurance and financial services industry by becoming a licensed agent and a claims specialist. Lanae also is an advocate for cloth diapering and baby wearing. Through her website she offers information and sources offering cloth diapering to all women and families in need. With two boys and 3 girls ranging in ages from 18- 2 most of her time is spent traveling to ballet lessons, band practice, and cello lessons. Also, two of her children are special needs and require various appointments and therapy. When there is time left, she enjoys writing, sewing and cooking. She is currently finishing up her first novel with more already in the works. With a love for travel, Lanae and her family have been to 5 different Caribbean islands and 2 countries in South America. So, look to hear more about the organized chaos that is traveling with 5 kids.